The Facts of Life

3039_1084349233848_8185094_nAs a person who receives some satisfaction from documenting his experiences and thoughts in words and sharing those words with others, I sometimes I ask myself, what is it about my writing, my point of view, that is my essence. Who am I at my core? Obviously, I am an Angeleno, a reader, an art lover, a Kansan, a former New Yorker, a swimmer. But what makes me me? What are the hallmarks of my writing?

I was talking to someone last night and we were discussing our separate junior high and high school experiences. And I said that for me, junior high and high school are never very far away from me. For me, and perhaps it’s because those years were not what I wanted them to be, I can be in the middle of the most random moments, like taking a table’s order, or walking down Larchmont, or drinking my morning coffee, or driving along Mulholland (Full confession, I do not drive along Mulholland nearly as often as I should.) and suddenly, often inexplicably, I am in Ms. Willis’ Algebra II class, or receiving my 2nd place medal at a Chanute Forensics competition, or getting in trouble for talking too much in the Living Christmas Tree at my Bible college, or standing in the lunch line at IJHS.

And I don’t think I am the only one who finds his memories almost oppressively accessible. I think many people remember many things from 25 and 30 and 35 years ago, but often, people don’t like to wade into that muck. Because, really, it’s muck and often muck can weigh you down. The past is the past.

But you know, just to play Devil’s advocate, you CAN learn from your past. You can ponder it and say, I don’t want to ever do or feel THAT again. Or you can say, there was a purity or joy that I want to bring back. For instance, I don’t remember a happier childhood time than the summer or weekend days when I would visit my friend Chris and we would play all afternoon with his sister’s Barbies. I marvel at how much of my childhood was spent dreaming of having my own Barbie doll. Every September, when the Sears, JCPenney and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs came, I would memorize, circle, cast a spell on every single item in the Barbie and fashion doll pages of each book. It’s crazy, I know. So much yearning for something that the culture I lived in told me was bad.

On New Year’s Day, as I was swimming, I thought about my friend Alan, with whom I spent most of New Year’s Eve. I’ve talked about him here before from time to time. We grew up together in the same small town, but, probably because even then we could both smell the gay on each other, it wasn’t until our adulthood that we became friends. And now, he knows this too, he is one of my best friends. That night, as a group of us sat at our friend Traci’s dining room table, discussing Serial, (Am I the only one who has little doubt that Adnan did it?) we also talked about Independence, gossiped a bit, showed our LA friends the mugshot of a childhood classmate that had (Drew Droege in Chloe voice) recently come to our attention. While we laughed over Malbec and Mu-Shu Pork, a Happy New Year text came in from our childhood friend Curt. Curt and his husband live in Ecuador, but were in Independence the same weekend I was there in December and we got to connect. I told Curt that I was with Alan and he wished Alan a Happy New Year too.

While I was in Kansas, I spent a good deal of time, documenting the trip with Alan and another friend Joel. Joel and I knew each other growing up, but our friendship was cemented when we took Mrs. Spencer’s American Literature course through the junior college one summer. It’s a bit of a magic trick to make something written centuries ago feel personal and contemporary, but that’s what she did in that class. There were only a handful of us, but whenever I see someone from that class, we always nod our heads and say, “THAT was the BEST class.” And then the other says, “YES, it was!”

So, yes, that first weekend in December, Alan and Joel and I spent a great deal of time texting each other about the weekend’s sightings, happenings, uncoverings, nuances.

I ached to have a large circle of friends when I was growing up. I mean, I had some friends, but I remember a lot of Friday and Saturday nights hanging out with the Ewings, the Channings, the Stubings and Mr. Roarke when what I really wanted was to go to the movies with friends my own age. I don’t doubt that I was an oddball. I mean, I don’t think anyone else was tape recording episodes of The Facts of Life and listening to them over and over again every night as a lullaby before bed.

The thing is, what I really wanted to say, when I started this Miss Havisham of a blog post, is that I’m grateful for my fellow gays from Independence. Not long ago, one of us, probably Alan, uncovered on FB someone else from our little town, who, it appears is living a gay life in a large city, far from Kansas like the rest of us. In trying to glean as much info as possible from his profile, I got a sense, true or not, that he wanted and succeeded at putting a lot of distance between himself and his hometown. And I certainly don’t judge that decision, there is a part of me that thinks that way too. But, I also felt a little sad. Sad that he doesn’t seem to have an Alan or a Joel or a Curt or a Chris to say, “Yeah, I remember. Growing up in Independence sometimes SUCKED, but look at us now. Look at how fabulous we’ve become.”

Guest Blogger, Gretchen Meinhardt

10268534_10152910983861554_5398660021533019161_nI don’t wade into political topics all that often. I’ll just say it’s not my particular area of expertise and leave it at that. But I do want to share the story of a family. I’ve known Gretchen Meinhardt since we were in college. A few months ago, I shared a piece she wrote for CNN. Today, I am sharing a copy of the letters she has sent to her legislators chronicling her experience with the Affordable Care Act for her family. Primarily, I share this so that a solution might be found where all children, and adults for that matter, receive the best healthcare possible, regardless of where they fall on an income scale. I don’t really know who might read this, but maybe Gretchen might also connect with other parents who are in a similar situation. I have included her email, for this purpose. If you have a similar story, please feel free to share it.

Guest Blogger: Gretchen Meinhardt

Perhaps the Affordable Care Act has helped some people, but it has been devastating for families like mine who struggle to care for a child with disabilities. When we adopted our newborn son Raef in 2001, we had no idea what we were in for, not only as new parents, but also as caregivers for a baby with significant, lifelong healthcare needs. Our joy as new parents soon turned to fear as he began having seizures – 200 to 300 a day – that were impossible to control. At only 8 months old, he had radical brain surgery (a right hemispherectomy), which was scary, but such a blessing because he has been seizure-free for 13 years now. The seizures and surgery left him partially blind and with limited use of the left side of his body (cerebral palsy), but he is an active eighth grader, with a delightful sense of humor and zest for life. The seizures and subsequent disabilities are not Raef’s only challenge, however. He also has Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), a genetic condition which causes tumors to grow on the nerves. At just 2 years old, he endured 14 months of chemotherapy to treat a tumor on his optic nerve. That tumor has remained stable, but Raef faces ongoing NF-related challenges, including learning disabilities, ADHD, sleep issues, and fine motor difficulties. In spite of all of these challenges, we wouldn’t trade Raef – or his younger sister Gwyn, his biological sibling whom we also adopted – for the world. We love them with all our hearts and delight in being their parents. The thing that breaks my heart and keeps me awake at night is that now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we may not be able to afford the medical care our son needs. For many years before the ACA, we were blessed to have excellent health insurance through my husband’s work as a safety manager with a large international company. However, when the country was preparing for the implementation of the ACA, that company chose to reorganize in order to afford the increased health care costs and requirements resulting from the ACA. My husband was among the “middle management” that was laid off to pay for these increased costs. And there went our health insurance, right along with his job, because we could not even afford the COBRA premiums. Since he was laid off more than a year ago, he has been actively searching and interviewing for jobs. But like many in his position, he has struggled. Although he is working temporary contract jobs in safety management, he has been unable to find a full-time position, with benefits, in his field. In addition, I work as an adjunct college instructor, and while it is relatively easy to find part-time positions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find full-time college teaching positions that offer benefits. So far we have managed to piece together health coverage for our family, but only because my husband is a veteran and can get VA healthcare, and because we reluctantly put our children on state health insurance (Medicaid) until we could find employment with benefits. However, it was next to impossible to get state coverage for the children, even though we qualified based on income after my husband lost his job. Now we live under the constant threat that we will lose the children’s Medicaid coverage before we are able to find permanent, affordable health coverage. During Medicaid’s latest notice they would be dropping coverage (which we are appealing), I once again priced health coverage through the ACA marketplace. If we go through the marketplace for health insurance, the medical costs in 2015 for my children and me will be between $16,000 and $30,000. This includes premiums, prescriptions, and out-of-pocket medical costs. (We always meet the out-of-pocket maximum with our son by about Valentine’s Day.) It’s hardly “affordable,” but with a child like Raef, health coverage is hardly optional. As the New Year and a new session of Congress approach, I ask that you take a serious look at the ACA and consider whether it is truly ensuring “affordable” health care for Americans. If you would like to know more about my family’s experience, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to help in any way, even if it takes meeting with legislators or testifying before Congress. Thank you for your careful consideration of this important issue.

Best regards,
Gretchen Meinhardt
Kansas City, Missouri
cliffmein@hotmail.com

What My Dog Taught Me

One can learn a lot from one’s pets, and not always in that cute Marley and Me way either. Oh how I wish this was a story about how smart and evolved my dogs are, but sadly, the dogs in my household have as many Achilles’ heels as the humans with whom they share their lives.

A few weeks ago, we gave Millie a plastic toy that was shaped like a Christmas present. Millie has not generally been a toy lover, but for some reason she fixated on this particular piece. And she looked super cute in all the pictures we took of her, holding the present in her mouth. It was a little too big for her and watching her try to carry it around the apartment made us laugh, not AT her of course, WITH her.

But this week, I had a realization about Millie and this brightly colored cadeau. It brings her no joy. She obsesses over it, stands guard, licks it occasionally, and worse, growls whenever Ricky or Eric or I get too close to it. Not once has Millie wagged her tail over her gift, the way she always does when it’s supper time or she’s going for a walk. I wake up in the middle of night, wonder where Millie is and I’ll look under the bed. There she’ll be, alert when she should be resting, her big eyes scowling at me, “Don’t take my present! It’s mine!”

Not to beat anyone over the head with the symbolism, but it was a big reminder to me to enjoy the gifts, tangible and otherwise, that I have been given. I think we all have a tendency to take things for granted or not appreciate, but the hope is that our gifts bring us joy, that wagging our tail kind of happiness.

I’m not particularly known for my optimism or even my gratitude. But one gift I receive every year is a chance to push the reset button. A chance to say, this is a new year, today I start becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.

As for poor Millie, I don’t think she can change who she is. She’s just a dog, an old one at that. So, it’s been discussed and today, the gift goes into a drawer. No doubt, she will soon forget about it and it won’t be a source of torment any longer. Don’t feel too bad for her, she’ll still have the the things that do bring her joy: wrestling with her brother, cuddles with her Dads, walks in the sunshine, treats.

Happy New Year to all! Every day, but especially today, the possibilities are endless. May 2015 be filled with all the things that make your tail wag.

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Suzanne’s Hands

Suzanne-SomersI was awake at 5 a.m. with a tickle in my throat. I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got up, took some cough medicine and read a bit on the couch. After awhile, I tired of reading but lay on the couch wishing I could turn my brain off a little. I looked at my hands, really studied them. Whenever I look at my hands, I always think of Suzanne Somers.

I like my hands, I used to really like them but in the last five years or so, they’ve started to wrinkle. Once somebody told me that I had “surfer boy” hands and though I didn’t know exactly what that entailed, it thrilled me to hear it. Also, when I look at my hands, I feel some pride that I no longer bite my nails. Give or take a few years, it was a 40 year habit. Like an alcoholic, I will always be nail biter in my core, but for the last few years, I have been a non-practicing one. I sometimes think that the one good thing to come out of a certain acting class is that I would stare at my hands during my teacher’s impassioned diatribes and look at my nails and think, I want to make a change. So, when I tell myself I can’t change something, I look at my nails and remember that yes, sometimes I can change.

But enough of my nails, let’s talk about my hands. Though not exactly leathery, I do feel like they are halfway between dewy and beef jerky. It’s fine, there are worse things to have to deal with. But like I said, I do think of Suzanne every time I look at these mitts.

It was 1995, I was in that play Party that I’ve written about a few times before on this blog. Around Christmas, folks could bring a children’s toy to the box office to get a certain discount on their ticket. We collected the toys and delivered them to one of the charities that distributed to needy children during the holidays. A great idea, and to promote it, celebrities would come to the show and take their picture with the cast and the photo would run in magazines, mostly the gay press. A win win, as the saying goes. We also collected money at other times for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Several interesting personalities came to the show and had their pictures taken with us, Dave Kopay, Greg Louganis, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl). My favorite was Judith Light who at that point I really only knew from Who’s the Boss. So very complimentary and gracious and beautiful. She talked to us about her friend Paul Monette who had passed away only a few months earlier. On the surface, Party was a trifle, a confection, but it made people laugh at a time when the GLBT community and those who loved them really needed to laugh. Twenty years later, I am still grateful for the experience Party gave me and I am proud to have been a part of something that brought a lot of people joy and comfort.

Don’t worry, I am getting to Suzanne.

Now sometimes, the stars came to us, sometimes we came to the stars. We went to the set of General Hospital to take a picture with some cast members, also we met Lee Meriwether, randomly, at an office building on La Brea. She was dressed for a formal affair that she was headed off to, but could not have been lovelier to us. She was wearing what was quite obviously a wig. I remember worrying that maybe her health was compromised, though in every way but the wig, she was the picture of vigor. I really, really liked her so I feel a bit guilty even mentioning the wig, but it made me worry for her a little, thought it made her appear a bit vulnerable.

The photo op we had with Suzanne Somers was going to be a very big deal our publicist told us. We were to meet her on the set of her series, Step by Step, and she would take pictures with us and ALSO, Entertainment Tonight was going to be there to document it. I had never been on Entertainment Tonight, obviously. The day of the op came. We all convened on the set. We waited in the mostly empty studio audience while members of the cast ran through certain scenes. Our picture was supposed to be at 11:00 but Suzanne was running behind. An hour passed, another hour passed. It was kind of annoying to wait around, but also, exciting to be on an actual tv set. Obviously, it was something I dreamed about all my life, and I was there, just not there in the exact way that I’d imagined.

Finally, after 2 hours, Suzanne Somers appeared. Full make up, and then some. Full hair, and then some. I must be honest, she was beautiful. The biggest smile, the set’s lights added an extra twinkle to her azure eyes. Twenty years had passed since she had been Chrissy Snow, but I got it. She was a star, always would be. Someone positioned the cast around Suzanne. Our stage manager arranged the toys for the tots, that he’d lugged in from his car, prominently around us. If I recall, a few of us held them in our hands. As the flashes went off, I looked down at Suzanne, so beautiful and for the first time, caught sight of her hands. Everything about her had been spackled and pulled into a semblance of youth, but her hands still told the truth. Old lady hands, I thought at the time, though a quick Wikipedia search tells me she would have been 49 on that day. So, give or take a few years, my age now. Entertainment Tonight filmed the entire thing, eventually pulling Suzanne aside for an interview with us talking to each other in the background. We asked when the segment would air, but were told they “weren’t sure.”

On our way out the door, someone in Suzanne’s camp handed each of us our own Thighmasters as a gesture for making the trip. We giggled at the time, but I kept mine for a good 15 years, stored haphazardly in my closet. It’s the only gift Suzanne every gave me, I thought, I can’t throw it away.

But of course, it’s not the only gift Ms. Somers ever gave me. She gave me a great story, a fun memory and a lesson. It might seem bittersweet, how even when we try to hold onto youth, our hands will still give us away. And that’s one way of looking at it. But you know, as I said, I’m almost Suzanne’s then age now and I have a little more respect and admiration. Those hands reminded me of what she had weathered, and I’m not just talking about She’s the Sheriff. Suzanne Somers is many things, not the least of which is a survivor. And just as my nails remind me of what I can change, my hands will always remind me of what I can endure.

Either Way, I’ll Be Okay

800px-Kauffman_Stadium_at_night,_2009I’ve been writing this post in my head for the last few weeks. I didn’t want to talk about it, because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but I have been caught up in Royal Fever like many of my friends and relatives who hail from Kansas and Missouri. Even now, I think I might have jinxed the team by watching the game, but I watched Tuesday night’s landslide game, so, well, one can see the trouble one gets into by overthinking stuff like this. In the end, the San Francisco Giants won the seventh game and the series. My Facebook feed is full of people expressing their pride and love and support for the 2014 American League Champions, the Kansas City Royals.

I really wanted the Royals to win. I don’t want to misrepresent myself, it’s not like I watched every game or even followed their trajectory for the majority of the season. Mostly, my Royals reports came only from my Dad. And I have to be honest, I really wanted my Dad to see his team win the World Series.

We were always a Royals household. Summer evening drives were accentuated by the sound of Royals baseball from the AM radio. When I was 6 or 7, we went to a Royals game and as we were leaving, a uniformed gentleman, singled me out and gave me a baseball that he told me was the one John Mayberry hit a home run with that night. The next day, we drove to a car dealership where Mr. Mayberry was signing autographs and he signed my baseball. It probably goes without saying, but when I think about baseball, I think about the Royals.

Two summers ago, I had a unique perspective. For the weeks that my Dad was at Kansas University Medical Center, most of that time was in a room on the 9th floor that overlooked most of the city, including Kauffman Stadium. My Dad wasn’t in such great shape in those days, but when there was a game, the tv was on. His bed faced west and the view of his room faced east. I would sit on a chair near the window, watching the game, watching my Dad and also look east to the dusky panorama that featured the stadium. Memories of those days are complicated, it felt so bleak, and there was something both comforting and vexing about the sights and sounds of Major League Baseball, the crack of the bats, the roar of the bleachers, the green, green field. While our lives as we knew it came to a complete halt, outside our window, life went on.

If you know the story, you know that my Dad did go home, he did get better. In fact, one of the things he credits for his return to health is the weeks watching the Royals play. There was something about watching their games that put him back into his own.

So if the Royals are even just one of the reasons my Dad is still with us, to me, it’s much bigger than winning a World Series. Last night, one of my high school friends posted a quote from one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.” Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them this is one of my favorite movies, but it is. Besides being a love letter to baseball, it’s a love letter to a part of the country I cherish and most importantly, a love letter to dads.

On Tuesday, I called my Dad as I was driving to work. Game 6 was minutes away from starting. I asked him how he was doing and he told me, “Either way, I’ll be okay.” I laughed. We laughed. And last night, minutes after the game, I called him again. He was proud of his team, rightfully so, and was already looking forward to next season, hoping they could “keep this up.” While some might mourn the loss, my Dad was already looking to the future with optimism. That optimism has, for a lifetime now, served my Father well, so with any luck, it just might carry the Royals to a 2015 World Series victory. But either way, we’ll be okay.

Project Runway Finale

sean-kelly-project-runway-rainway-dressThis is the first and probably last time I’m going to blog about an episode of Project Runway, but I woke up this morning with some thoughts and I wanted to share them. I got home from my new job at midnight last night. I am discovering there are things I love and hate about working evenings again, one thing I love is that drive home from DTLA along 3rd Street. Quiet in parts and bustling in others, I notice something new, a gorgeous old apartment complex or a street studded with palm trees, on every trip. And anytime LA isn’t stop and start traffic feels like a luxury.

Now let me just say, if you haven’t seen the finale yet, spoiler alert, I am going to talk about the outcome and my take on it. So, if you haven’t seen it yet and are planning to be surprised when you watch it, don’t read any further.

I had not watched Project Runway for a couple of seasons. I loved it for years, but somewhere along the way, I lost interest. When I started watching this season, I only half watched it. I fast-forwarded through most of the work sessions, played on my phone while watching the rest. But at some point this season, I became invested. By the time it was down to the final four, I loved every one of the final four. They were my final four. I even appreciate that this season had a captivating and pretty villain: narcissistic, ungracious Korina.

In my humble opinion, the right person won. Besides being really, really cute, Sean’s fashion week runway show had the best looks, in my humble opinion. (Note to self, please don’t act like you know how to talk about fashion, you don’t.) I did love the story of his collection and I loved the fringe. I couldn’t get over the way these pieces moved on the runway. Beautiful. So when they called his name, I felt like the judges made the right choice.

Now, I think we all knew Char wasn’t going to win, but I have to say, if I could have picked anyone to be in the fourth spot, it would have to be her. And every time, the producers showed Tim Gunn and Char sitting in a park talking, whether in Rome or New York, I’m sorry, it was the best thing about the series. I want to pitch to Lifetime a show called “Tim and Char Sitting on a Park Bench, Just Talking.” I loved the visceral connection Tim had with Char and there was something about that visit to Detroit, meeting her family, seeing what she has overcome, that made us root for her even more. Also, she handled Korina’s nastiness with graciousness (can’t wait for next week’s reunion episode) and I love it when contestants trim down a little between the season and the finale. Char had a great season. And by the way, Char, I loved the turquoise dress and I was glad to see it on the runway.

As I was driving home last night, thinking about the finale ahead. I asked myself if I wanted Kini or Sean to win. I just loved Kini, I feel like he’s the Hawaiian me, except that I can’t sew, fast or slow. Some of my favorite looks all season were from him. Of course, for me, fashion is only part of it. First of all, I’m a sucker for proud parents, especially a proud dad. Every time, the camera fell on Mr. Zamora, you could just see how much he loved and believed in Kini. Seriously, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it. And then last night, after he came in 3rd and his aunt sang the chant to him, and the way his family gathered around him to comfort him, but also express their pride, it was a beautiful moment. Kini, you were my favorite.

I hope that all four of the finalists go on to thriving careers. Vision is only part of it, of course, even though she’s not my favorite of the four, I suspect that Amanda has the most promising future. Her dresses are so wearable and accessible, I could easily see them at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Of course, the final moments of the episode made me emotional. I was happy that Sean won, but it was Amanda that I thought about moments later as I tumbled into bed, trying to turn my brain off after a long evening at work.

Sometimes the person who wants to win the most is not the one who does. Amanda really struggled with admitting just how much she wanted to win and she got to the point where she said, “I just have to admit this. I really, really, really want it!” And she didn’t get it. Her heart broke, not forever, but in that moment, when Heidi told Sean he had won. Then she put on a brave face, and gave Sean a smile and a hug. Then she told her family, she was going to give herself two weeks to cry every day and then she would be okay. (Or something along those lines.) So, Amanda, if you read this, I want to thank you for the reminder that it’s okay to express just how much you want something, even, maybe especially, if you don’t end up getting it.

So, I guess that’s it. I am glad that I got sucked into this season. I think Sean’s rain dress, which now that I think about, was the moment that something hooked it’s claws irrevocably into me, is a good metaphor for the entire season. Even though, I had vague idea of what was going to happen, I still wondered, what will the colors look like? How much will it bleed? What if the pockets of dye don’t burst? But in the end, it was magic and yes, as you hope any art will do, it took my breath away.

The Tide is High

2048x2048So, I’ve reentered the workforce. And not only am I back at a restaurant, I’ve returned to waiting tables after a few years away. I feel a little old and a little slow, but I genuinely like the people I work with and for and the food is amazing. Turns out, I like being around delicious food.

There is another thing I like about working in a restaurant, it’s not confined to restaurant environments, but it is a trademark. It’s when you start talking to a person, a customer, a client, a guest, whatever you’re asked to call the person and you start talking about what’s good on the menu and you somehow transition to talking about where you grew up or what you love/hate/love about LA or what are you passionate about.

A few nights ago, I waited on two women. I asked them where they lived, they told me. One of them lives in Venice. “Born and raised,” she told me. I asked her if she’d seen the exhibit about Venice Beach that’s at LACMA right now. She told me she had not seen it and I told her she must. She asked me where I was from. Kansas. Then she asked me when was the first time I saw the ocean.

I paused. Although it’s not a question one often gets asked, suddenly, I was 12 years old, on my first 747, seeing the ocean from my window seat as our plane prepared to land at San Francisco Airport, a stop on my family’s trip to Hawaii. As I told this to these ladies, the hair on my arms stood up, reliving one of the most exciting moments in my life up to that point.

Memories flooded back. I told them how Blondie’s The Tide is High was playing on the airplane’s radio playlist and I couldn’t figure out if the synchronization was random or orchestrated. To this day, I still don’t know, but every time I hear The Tide is High, I think about that sight.

I live 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. I sometimes see it several times in a week. It’s also not rare for me to go months without seeing it. But every time I go through that tunnel that drops you onto PCH and I see that beach and that water, it thrills me. I just never get tired of it. I tell myself, one of these days, I’m moving to the beach. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

When I lived in New York, I lived near the Atlantic Ocean, blocks from the Hudson River and I would see the water almost every day. During my San Francisco days, I could run from my apartment, through Golden Gate Park, all the way to Ocean Beach.

I don’t have to see the ocean every day, but I like knowing it’s there. When I go to Kansas, I actually get a little nervous, a little itchy thinking about how far I am from the ocean. Weird, I know, but it’s the truth.

I’m not the only land locked Midwesterner who followed the siren song of the ocean to a coastal city. Los Angeles is full of people like me. It’s even full of waiters like me. As much as I feel that tv and movies and that Hollywood illusion called to me from my living room floor, eyes and heart glued to the tv set, there is something about the geography that beckoned me too. Like the end of Inside Daisy Clover, when Natalie Wood barefooted it down the beach after her shanty exploded in flames. Or Jim Rockford’s trailer in Malibu. And even though we never saw them go there, except in the opening credits, we knew that Jack and Janet and Chrissy’s apartment was mere steps from Santa Monica Beach. They did not have to actually go there, for us to know it was there.

Which brings me back to my relationship to it. I probably won’t see the ocean today. Work, traffic, minutiae, they all can keep me from making the time to make the trek. But soon, Eric and I, or maybe I’ll go by myself, either way, I’ll get in my Jetta and head west. Maybe the traffic near the 405 will make me curse a little, but I’ll keep going and inevitably, I’ll take that little dip on the 10, into the tunnel, and spill out on the other side. I’ll see it, my enduring friend. I’ll try to keep my eyes on the road when all I’ll want to do is gaze to my left. And up the coast I’ll go, California dreamin’, a sunshine day, the tide high…